Stress

All posts in the Stress category

Fresh MBA Hirability – A Practical Industry/College Solution

Published November 4, 2017 by vishalvkale

An article in The Hindustan Times today caught my eye –  Fewer than half of new MBA graduates getjobs as economy sputters, trend at 5-year low. The articles open with a hard punch to your gut : “Job offers for fresh management graduates in India are at a five-year low, official data show, a trend experts blame on a sluggish economy as well as a mismatch between the years-old curriculum and industry expectations…. In 2016-17, just 47% of Master of Business Administration (MBA)graduates got placed on the campus, a dip of 4% over the previous year, marking a five-year low. At 12%, the drop was far sharper for postgraduate diploma holders.
Image Source : from HT Article linked above


I said this on my blog nearly 4 years ago – there is a dire need to revisit the MBA Curriculum; but it isn’t the only aspect of this problem. I say this with authority, as I have seen both sides – having been a Visiting Faculty, as well as a current Industry Veteran. There is an issue with the MBA Course, but correcting it requires a will; it requires a combination of fresh talent in MBA Colleges – Industry Veterans who should team up with Academicians for solving this complex problem. At the same time, Industry needs to invest in training – which it doesnt; it needs to re-visit the entire Performance Management System, which is hopelessly obsolete, number oriented and simply fails to capture the modern reality of business; it also needs to set up realistic expectations from new recruits. Let us consider these two problems one-by-one in detail
THE MBA COURSE
The view that all in wrong in the MBA Course is inaccurate – for any number of reasons. First of all, the MBA Course is an introduction to Business & Management, and establishes the fundamentals in business – without which we are lost. In my experience – all the courses I have been associated with, do it admirably, at least in letter. The difficulty is the absence of proper teaching aids – and I don’t mean AV equipment. Frankly, they are enablers; we require content. And content is the real issue – there is a need to revisit the content of the books, and make them more relevant.
The content is woefully inadequate in terms of Indian Examples. As a Management Book Reviewer and avid reader of Management Research Books,

  • ü I have observed many-a-time that I am yet to read too many Indian Institutes & teachers coming out with real  case studies on the Indian Market and Brands, as also Management Thought. We aren’t creating intellectual property – which is the real issue. Simply making cosmetic changes to the course will not suffice.  
  • ü Add to this the Language and Affordability barrier – content and books are damned costly, and in English, which is a major barrier
  • ü You need to make the content richer in terms of relevance to Indian Markets, which will enable deeper learning and also provide a deeper connect with students as they can easily relate.
  • ü The course as such is just fine; there is little that is missing. It needs to be made more contemporary in these terms.
The MBA Course is supposed to give basics of Business, Marketing, Finance, etc to prospective employees for the corporate sector; this is what it does. 



  • ü What it doesn’t do is – give a connect with the realities of the Indian Market. That is why we need Indian Original Content, not copied Western thought.
  • ü In addition to this, there is a need for students to do more realistic projects on all subjects; the course is far too theoretical, and gives the students zero idea of the domestic realities. The marking system needs to incorporate genuine brain-work on realistic projects, not just exams. 


  • The way to do this is simple –
  • ü deeper Industry College interaction; and
  • ü lateral hires at Professor level for MBA College teaching options
  • ü Given the lesser stress, it will be easy to attract talent for the universities;
  • ü this will require a re-visit of the qualification norms, and the development of precise judgement criterion to ensure the lateral hires fit in, have knowledge of their domain, and can contribute positively.
  • ü The pitfalls of hiring only basis visible achievement is inaccurate, as designation is no guarantor of true ability and knowledge, which needs to be kept in mind.



CORPORATE INDIA

In the paragraph above, I stress deeper Industry-College interaction; this cannot happen unless Industry understands that it is a part of the problem. I stated in the opening that both the colleges and the companies are responsible for the glut; let me add a third factor here – the students. The industry grouse that the MBA expects too much and knows too little is grounded in reality, that much is sadly true. But with deeper interaction – this can be attended to, as the reality sinks into students. Before blaming the students, we need to accept that we are making no effort to educate them as well.
The key question is, how will this interaction happen? This can only happen in the Human Resources Function, and some other staff functions; for reasons I attend to later on in the article. 
  • ü One possible way is regular interaction of HR / Staff function managers with a selected bunch of colleges – in terms of lectures by managers – properly curated by the College in terms of content;
  • ü Co-hosting real-time tiny projects in real scenarios, which same to be designed to be of very short {daily projects}, short {week-fortnight} projects.
  • ü An example of a daily project could be market survey of all retail counters in a street – which will take only 2 hours; or checking documentation in back-office etc. This can be suitable added on by a thorough training intervention – which should be regular, not sporadic.
  • ü Even a child requires help to walk; and a fresh MBA is a Child in the Big Bad World of Corporates.
The other aspect that needs attending to – the toning down of expectation from new hires. That will not happen unless you re-design the entire PMS – which leaves no scope for learning, or real training. I understand we are in a hypercompetitive market; and that bottom and top lines need to be achieved; but chasing numbers mindlessly, without heed to basics is fraught with even higher risks – as many in my parent sector, Telecom, found much out to their chagrin. There needs to be a balance between pure numbers, and business basics – and at all levels. You need to judge strategic ability at all levels – and this is even more vital in a hypercompetitive market, where the cost of a strategic misjudgement and improper strategic implementation are the precise same – Business Closure.
The list of companies that have paid the price for the above is incalculable; we need to do both – hit our numbers while also ensuring long-term stability of the business as a running enterprise. This we have clearly failed to do in many cases. And once you shift focus to the nitty gritty of business – the nuts n bolts, the basics – the need for a strong fundamental and theoretical basis will emerge ever more strongly. You don’t need an MBA to just hit numbers, to be brutally frank; but you need a good thinking and  trained MBA to be able to judge the medium and long-term impact of your short-term tactics even at field level, and  modulate your responses in the field accordingly.

  • CONCLUSION – INDUSTRY
  • ü Industry expects immediate numbers;
  • ü industry expects top performance without any time for learning; 
  • ü industry expects a softened person, whose edges have been rubbed off.
  • ü All three require training and experience.
  • ü You need people – so why not associate with idenitified universities – in Tier B and C towns and colleges as well and step in in a win-win situation?
  • ü Second, as a line manager myself – I too feel at risk when I used to go for a fresher; the risk to me personally, or my team targets, as well as the complete absence of a support mechanism or space in operation deny me the space to create my own strategies. {That is one reason why I feel this initiative has to be owned by the staff functions}
  • ü This, in a nutshell, is the gist of the problem on the company side, which is complex mutli-layered problem with no easy solutions…
CONCLUSION – COLLEGES

  • ü On the education side – they also need to do the same as above; they need to open up and admit lateral hires, as well as be more open to partnerpships with companies.
  • ü Create Intellectual Property of your own… invest in Research, papers, books creation on the Indian Market, and make them publicly available. Don’t treat them as classified secrets!
  • ü Revise the course to make it more contemporary
  • ü Increase the practical work importance, content and relevance so that students are in touch with reality!

The Three Levels Of Consciousness {Sanaatan Dharm Series}

Published August 20, 2017 by vishalvkale

This is the next in the series on Sanaatan Dharm; these articles are my reflections as I attempt to understand myself, my religious affiliation, and the world around me – it is the chronicle of my path of self-discovery… I make no assertions on a collective scale


WHY DO WE PRAY?
This is one question that has come to my mind only very recently; it is one of the triggers for penning this article. Why do we Humans pray? For what purpose? I can make no assertions for you – but I can examine and analyse myself, and try to determine why I pray. What is it that drives me to prayer? In my case, I can truthfully state that prayers started as a means, an effort, to get divine assistance to smoothen my rather difficult, or rather uncertain life and its attendant problems. That is how it started out – and it would probably have remained at that level, had life not had other ideas.
That is the best way I can put it – for I can find no other reasons for the sequence of events that has lead to this deep self-examination that I subject myself to in writing this chronicle of self-discovery. Being a person with deep seated, strong belief systems based on values – Integrity, Honesty, Loyalty and so on; living in a world which thrived on “gamesmanship”, selfishness and materialism – not having a coping mechanism meant I had to build one of my own. My response – building my mental ability to disconnect; my hobbies, which have enabled me to keep afloat, even achieve a lot despite being rather strict in my values, was one aspect; but, in difficult times – the answer I had usually had was a combination of my hobbies and being able to disconnect, and prayer to deal with the resultant stress.
FEAR
That brings me to what I can call the first level of consciousness – Fear. Fear is can be said to be a driver of action – this is well accepted by science. Fear is also what drives humans towards Prayer, as uncertainty raises worries, anxieties and stress levels.  That drove me increasingly towards Prayer – something I almost never did right till my late 20s, despite not having a Job, or any career clarity. I wasn’t built that way. Well-wishers, family advised me and directed me towards Prayer – thus, Prayer is also a learned response, it would seem. One does need a Guru, a Guide to set a person on the right path. Praying kindled hope, it also kindled action, as somehow I acted much better with the confidence of a firm hope behind me.
DESIRES
Life went on; I advanced in age, in my career, in my personal life; this kindled in me my desires. Initially, these desires were materialistic in nature. However, it needs to be noted that Fear outpaces, outdistances Desire; fear is a far stronger emotion. Desires and ambitions lie dormant, and are drivers of longer term action, whereas fear-driven responses are shorter term, in my experience. These never drove me to prayer; Desires and Ambitions spurred me to action – in my life, in my career.
These operate at two different levels, as I have observed keenly over the past 2 years – fear is always on the top of the mind, whenever present; and desire lies dormant, together determining life choices and decisions. In good times as well as bad, this hold true. These drive what you are today, what you want to be tomorrow… not what you will be tomorrow, which is the result of a combination of your actions & your circumstances and your decisions. Understanding how, why to take these decisions is a life hunt for each individual. The gap between what you want to be and what your direction is taking you towards stress, kindling, once again – fear and desire, taking you back where you started. Fear keeps you on your toes in the real world, while desire enables action and response mechanisms, together leading towards your life materialistic goals. These are thus two different levels of consciousness!
TOUCHING DEEPER INTO YOUR CONSCIOUSNESS
Most of us go through life in these levels of existence – fear & desire. So far, we are in safe territory even from a perspective of psychology and known science. And yet, I have always looked out into the sky at night, wondering why we are here; why we are alive; who am I; what is life; and having a deep dear of dying – as long as I can remember. I have no idea why I had these thoughts. I have always wondered who is God, how did this Universe come about – maybe all Humans do have these thoughts. Assuming that is so, I, like other humans, did nothing about these except suppress them.
THE THIRD LEVEL – SELF CONTEMPLATION AND EXAMINATION
I have no recollection or idea what drove me towards reading The Bhagwad Geeta in several translations, The Upanishads, or The Vedic Texts; but it was connected to my habit of reading, when I came across an excellent book – What India Should Know, the 2nd half of which was based on The RugVed and YajurVed. I have always been a voracious reader; so that wasn’t a surprise. But till this day I have no answer to why I picked up my first Bhagwad Geeta translation, or my first Upanishad. Maybe it was God’s hint; I don’t know – but I was lucky to pick up the one by Geeta Press.
And it is through studying these scriptures, which I have been doing for 3.5 years now, repeated alliterations of the same, that I can arrive at a faintly glimmering look at the 3rd Level of Consciousness, a level deeper than these above 2. From a perspective of Psychology – fear & desire cant answer your value system, which is the core of human personality. Lying dormant, but the determinant of all actions as well as deep thoughts is your core value system.
What is the connect? Simply this : I have always wondered how I can stay cool, calm and reasoned even under extreme stress and difficulty, of which I have seen far more than my fair share? This isn’t my observation, by the way – several friends have observed this in me, and it is they who brought my attention to this factor. If fear & desire are the two levels, then there has to be a third level of consciousness that determines your behaviour, attitudes and your actions, which has to be the bedrock of your nature & your personality.

This is where we diverge from accepted Psychology so far as I am aware; and paradoxically, this is where Psychology and our scriptures also come together. As we shall see in the next part of this series, whenever I get around to penning it, this 3rd level is extremely hard to put into words, let alone understand. And yet – it is there, it is present, as you yourself have no doubt realized in the quiet contemplative moments of your life. This is a level that transcends fear, desire and existence; and goes to the core of the intersection of Psychology and Scriptures – as we shall see in the next part of this series of personal thoughts on Sanaatan Dharm…

Corporate India : The Self-Perpetuating Vicious Conditioned Response

Published March 20, 2015 by vishalvkale

A LinkedIn Question on Managers, and their attitudes towards employee’s mental health triggered a thought process; Do managers really care about employee’s mental health?
No, they dont. I dont think this can be an argued, with; neither is this open to question. There are several documented surveys in existence that bear the proof : that disease of every kind is rising, and fast. Question is, does anyone care? No. Also true. Next question : can anything be done? Answer : No. Concluding Question : Why? Answer : The stupid idiot who tries to do something gets sacked, regardless of level. Statement of simple fact. 

It doesnt take a genius to figure out that you run everyone under incredibly high stress combined long with 14-hour days – there are going to be cases of burnout, breakdown, mental disorders, heart attacks, diabetes, Asthma, etc. That is basic 10th standard Biology. Everyone should and does know this. Still they dont care. If they did, things wouldnt be as they were. That is also an unfortunate truism. People at the top – some of them, at any rate – are also well aware of the range of issues, but shy away from doing anything about it. Why should this be so? And why is bucking the system so damned tough for even a top manager? 

But first, the proof. As proof, in May 2013, The ET carried a damning indictment of Corporate India and its work culture. { Analysed on my blog here : Corporate India, work stress and employee dissatisfaction. } It holds an interesting divergence, and a hint of the key. While the Employer view was that employees value Career, the Employee view was the e.x.a.c.t opposite : they value job security. Another sector specific survey identifies rising mental illness in Corporate India. A third has clearly delineated abnormal and rising rates of sickness – especially lifestyle diseases. Just reading these surveys makes clear the TOTAL disconnect between Top Management and Middle-Lower-Frontline Staff. 


At core of the issue lies a bunch of cowardly middle managers, who are too scared to speak; brow-beaten frontline and firstline managers who know that if they speak, khatam, finish. And at the core of that lies a disturbed authority-responsibility matrix that gives power to people who dont deserve it, or dont train people for the higher responsibilities. And it is this self-perpetuating matrix that is in effect a vicious circle, breaking out of which is virtually impossible. 

This vicious circle is actually indicative of a deeper systemic malaise: the internal systems and processes are not coping up with the changed business reality that is confronting the corporate scenario. And that, to my mind, is the core reason for what we have seen above. HR systems, fist of all, need to be strengthened to cope with the new reality. This has to go hand-in-hand with a more humane treatment to employees, with a receptive ear to their manifest and genuine concerns. 

And the proof of that {malaise} is simple; all you have to do is look, ask the right questions – for example, in the sales function,  just trace sales, cost of sales, distributor and team instability, cheque bouncing, customer complaints, vendor issues etc : all are directly proportional, whereas logic and experience both dictate they should ideally be inversely proportional. This is basis practical experience of tracing numbers. The problem : The PMS does not measure anything except the first parameter, which means that there is no reason to do anything about the rest. Result? Also simple to trace. Trace the brand failures, their number and rising incidence. {To those, esp HR people, who lay claim that the modern PMS does measure other parameters – my rejoinder; no, it doesn’t, but that is another story, for a different blog post. Stay connected}

At one level, people are just plain dumb, and too scared of chucking their jobs; that is admittedly a part of the problem. To that, I can only say  : come on, everyone! You are educated, a post-graduate {at least a graduate}, qualified, intelligent… dont you have confidence in yourself? Just because someone threatens you, you back down and do something against your nature, or the law, or plain common sense, or something that causes a loss to your team or the organisation or both? What that means is that you are good for nothing except what you currently do; that outside that comfort zone, you are a total failure.  

The second level is the rampant and completely one-sided belief that people who stay and compromise are resilient; nothing could be farther from the truth. Resilience does not mean compromising on the virtues and good values that differentiate a human from an animal. True resilience is standing up for your beliefs, and fighting it out. Staying and admitting defeat or compromising is admitting that you are incompetent, that the system has changed you! And, as we shall see later, this is the compromise that actually deepens the problem; it is this compromise that creates a vicious cycle.

What you see is a conditioned response; a response conditioned by organisational policies that are as harmful to the organisation as to the employee, policies that, acting in concert, create a vicious cycle, strengthening one message, and one message only. These policies, acting in concert, selectively build unhealthy competencies, simultaneously undermining the organisation’s internal strengths and capabilities. This is a matter that lies at the door of the CEO, HR heads, OD Teams, Line Functions VP’s and above, requiring deep-rooted policy level action and lots of time to correct. 
The policies in question the entire breadth of the organisation, and together coordinate to co-create what we see, what is evident in the various surveys, suicides, murders, pink slips, anger, heart attacks and lifestyle diseases cropping up. For example, the moment you promote based on end-result alone, without looking at the underlying factors, you are sending a strong message that reinforces the learning that anything goes. 

Even during hiring, the same message : with the focus being on your achievements, not how you did them; background checks also just check the veracity of the written documents, when they should in reality be talking to all concerned to get at the gist of the real performance of the person : has this person left behind a sea of problems, dissatisfied customers / team members etc? The proof is the ease with which people who are sacked for rampant financial irregularity get hired.

The same reinforcement goes into the people during meetings, with the focus being on achievements, with no serious questions being asked as to how these were done. Fact of the matter is that all of us know that there is no hanky-panky / short-cut that cannot be revealed in a set of targeted questions at the so-called high-achiever. Any fool with experience can expose the reality; it doesn’t require either intelligence or extraordinary levels of skill to pull that off.
This message is further reinforced when someone who has not performed is pulled up, usually in public, with no attempt to analyse the reason for the non-performance. This is actually a serious business risk- as a lack of competitive ability in the organization and its products first shows up in the non-performers’ numbers; the so-called performers, skilled as they are at getting numbers any which way, hide the erosion in competitive ability of the offering in the market. Result? Organisation after organization is taken by surprise as the entire edifice crumbles… when all you really had to do is put some time and energy understanding the non-performing areas in terms of strategic offering, not a purely tactical view. 

But this isn’t done – sending, yet again, an exceptionally powerful message. A conditioned response is created. The same thing happens as leaders try to inculcate a uniformity in companies, leading to a team that thinks along a defined line, lacking the perceptive and functional in-depth skills that are built up by diversity. Yet again, the same message. This is further deepened when people compromise, and say “this is the way it happens”…

The exact same thing happens when people hire for stability, or for deep skills in one skill area; you are building a team that can and does crack open under pressure; these so-called stable, or skilled people, in reality have never seen adversity, or have no exposure to other areas, knowledge sets and experiences; this is a vital and needed parameter that builds a vital and strong organisation. In each and every case, a strong message is going : to succeed, this is what you have to do…

Each  and every policy and step taken, rather than engender a positive attitude and out-of-the-box thinking, further deepens the problem in a self-perpetuating cycle.
I have said it before; I say it again… 

In 16 years and counting, in a full 100% cases of failed products and launches, the frontline teams have predicted the outcome with 100% accuracy. Organisations regard them as not having knowledge; my experience at front, first and second line tells me they know more about the business realities than anyone else in the company; this is across functions as well, with faulty policies being rightly called as such in 100% cases by the people who are not listened to. You ignore them at your organisation’s peril. No one speaks for the simple reason that speaking up is not encouraged; I have been told on occasion : teraa aadmi bahut boltaa hai, chup karao yaa nikaalo! Yet again, you are gving a message… a reinforcement…

This requires deep-seated change, and can only happen when people at the bottom start saying no, and give a push-back; which can only happen in a crisis period for the industry, when the bloodbath begins… Examples abound. Sad part is, in the bloodbath, many innocent careers are sacrificed. Hansa chugegaa daanaa…. etc etc… how to change this in any other way? I have no idea… if you do, drop a comment, and educate me! Cant be more honest than that.